Six Keys to Useful Outdoor Spaces

As outdoor learning spaces become more and more incorporated in school design, one can’t help but ask, what needs to be considered when designing them to ensure that they’re useful? The experts have several thoughts.

1. Ownership
Two pieces of creating successful outdoor learning spaces that are often ignored are: 1) engaging the maintenance staff, parents and teachers in the planning process; and 2) providing teachers with support, resources and training to know how to adequately use the space and, therefore, help the children use it.

2. Maintenance
Having a maintenance plan is extremely important and should be discussed from the beginning, because everything requires maintenance: asphalt, concrete, plant materials, etc.

3. Community
Connect the outdoor learning spaces to the community. Recruit parents who know a lot about plant materials who are willing to contribute, or the Boy Scouts, a local garden club or the Lions Club can make a contribution.

4. Shade
Provide protection from the elements. The use of shade trees can protect people from the sun and provide a covering from the rain.

5. Storage and Connection
There are going to be materials that the teachers and students will need, and they should be stored next to the area where they will be used. Outdoor learning space won’t be used if it is not located close to the building. It Is important to look at outdoor and indoor learning spaces as connected, rather than segregated.

6. Variety
A successful outdoor learning space includes a lot of different resources, like as a play area, a gathering/teaching space and free space.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of School Planning & Management.

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